Chocolate Babka

Those who know me know I need little excuse to bake…but blizzards and snow days are as good as any!  With growing concern in Boston over reports of record snow fall and winds, I headed to my local Whole Foods (along with everyone else in a 5 mile radius) to stock up…on butter, flour, sugar, and eggs!

I decided to take advantage of this forced hibernation by baking things I’d had on my “to do” list for a long time.  First up was the chocolate babka I’d seen on Food52.com (Does anyone else think of that Seinfeld episode whenever they hear “chocolate babka”?).

Chocolate babka is a slighty sweet yeast bread swirled with a spiced chocolate nut mixture.  I made this recipe almost exactly as written except I substituted toasted pecans for almonds.  It was the perfect breakfast to wake up to while snowed in!  And I have a feeling it will be even better tomorrow as french toast!  Next up for today….Alton Brown’s macaroni and cheese followed by Milk Bar’s cornflake, marshmallow, and chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Babka (from Food52)

Dough

2 1/4 tsp or 1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk at 110ºF
6 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature
6 tbs sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
egg yolks
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tspsal

Stir the yeast into the milk to dissolve. Let sit until foamy.

While the yeast proofs cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and vanilla extract and mix well to combine. Then add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing until each yolk is incorporated before adding the next. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the mixture for about 2 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and salt, followed by the milk and yeast mixture. Switch to the dough hook attachment and mix the dough until a soft, tacky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead by hand for two more minutes. The dough should feel soft, supple and smooth. Move the dough to a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at a moderate room temperature for about 2 hours or until almost doubled in size. Alternately, you can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator and shape it the next day.

Filling and Streusel

Filling

3/4 cup finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
cup sliced almonds (or pecans), toasted and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter

Streusel

2 tbs soft unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
egg for egg wash

Prepare the filling while the dough is rising. Put all of the ingredient into a large bowl and use a pastry blender or bench scraper to cut the ingredients together into a streusel-like crumble.

To shape the bread: Roll the risen dough on a lightly floured surface into a roughly 15×18 inch rectangle. Gently lift the dough to make sure that it will easily release from the work surface. Sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the top of the dough leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges then roll the dough from the long end into a tight log about 20 inches long. Gently bend the dough into a U-Shape and twist the arms of the dough two or three times around each other to form the loaf, then pinch the seams together. Place the dough into a greased 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room until the babka fills the pan, 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Prepare the streusel: Combine all of the streusel ingredients in a bowl and mix until crumbly. When the loaf has risen completely, brush with egg wash made from 1 egg + 1T water and sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top. Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top of the loaf which will release any air pockets trapped between the folds of the dough and filling.

Put the loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 20-30 more minutes. The loaf will be deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when the bottom is tapped when finished. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature which will be 185º when the loaf is finished. Let the babka cool to room temperature before slicing.

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie

I grew up in a pretty traditional American family eating traditional American foods. We had spaghetti night, taco night, chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers, occasionally homemade pizza, chocolate chip cookies, etc, etc.  But one thing we almost never had in the house was bananas!

My mom hates them (and will probably hate this post!).  I swear she has some sort of banana 6th sense- if there is a banana within a 5 mile radius she can smell it and will make it her mission to destroy it!  So needless to say, I was often deprived of this healthy, delicious, potassium rich fruit as a child (along with cable TV).

Luckily, now that I live on my own (and beyond the 5 mile banana radius) I can eat all the bananas I want- and what better way to eat bananas than in a pie with pudding and crust and whipped cream!

The idea for this pie was actually born this summer and is a combination of several different recipes.  Banana cream pies generally have a flaky, butter crust but I decided to swap it out for a chocolate coated graham cracker crust.  It is then filled with sliced bananas and homemade vanilla pudding before being topped with whipped cream and more chocolate (you really can never have enough chocolate).

The key element that really brings this all together is the 1/2 tsp of salt in the whipped cream.  Don’t leave it out!  I promise that it is a game changer. (You should generally add some salt to all desserts to bring out the sweetness.)

Enjoy (and sorry Mom!).

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie

Vanilla Pudding (adapted from Bon Appetit):

4 large eggs
cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
4 cups whole milk
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt

Crust (adapted from Bon Appetit):

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
7 whole graham crackers, coarsely broken
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs sugar
1 1/3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)
2/3 cup chilled whipping cream
2 Tbs light corn syrup

3 ripe bananas, sliced thinly

Whipped cream topping:

1 1/3 cup chilled whipping cream
3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt

To make the pudding:  Lightly whisk eggs in a large bowl just to blend. Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk milk into sugar mixture and heat over medium heat, whisking often, until very warm to the touch. Gradually whisk half of hot milk mixture into eggs, then whisk egg mixture back into milk mixture in saucepan.

Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and whisk leaves a trail in pudding (it should be the consistency of mayonnaise), about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter, vanilla, and salt and whisk until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.

Strain pudding through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl. Cover pudding with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the surface. Chill until cool, about 2 hours.

For the crust:  While the pudding chills, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish with nonstick spray. Blend graham crackers, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor until moist clumps form. Press crumb mixture over bottom and up sides of prepared pie dish. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine chocolate chips, 2/3 cup cream, corn syrup, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Whisk until melted and smooth. Spread about 2/3 of chocolate mixture over bottom of crust. Freeze 10 minutes.  Reserve the rest of the chocolate to drizzle on top of the finished pie.

To assembly the pie: Spread a thin layer of the chilled pudding over the chocolate.  Arrange the banana slices over the pudding in about 2 layers and then top with the remaining pudding until the pie dish is filled (you may have some extra left over).  Chill for at least 4 hours.

It’s best to top pie with whipped cream just prior to serving.  To make whipped cream, combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fit with a whip attachment and beat on high until stiff peaks form.  Spread on top of pie.  Drizzle with remaining chocolate (you may need to rewarm in microwave for about 20 seconds).

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil

Cauliflower is the new kale! You heard it here first!  Actually, it’s been proclaimed the new kale for about a year now but it’s still really really really good.  My favorite preparation is to simply roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper to bring out the delicious nutty, caramel flavors (and then maybe add some pomegranate seeds, parsley, hazelnuts…).  However, given that winter has finally decided to grace us with its below freezing temperatures and gale force winds, I decided to take the roasted cauliflower one step further by turning it into a soup.

This humble soup of roasted cauliflower, onion, garlic, water and milk is delicious served as is.  But, finishing with sautéed mushrooms and truffle oil really elevates the dish and lends an earthy flavor and aroma.  Serve it as an appetizer or turn it into the main attraction by adding some crusty bread and a small side salad.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil
(serves 4-6)

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 cups milk
1/2 Tbs sugar
4 oz wild mushrooms sautéed in 1 Tbs butter
sour cream (or greek yogurt or creme fraiche) (optional)
truffle oil (not optional…)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss cauliflower in 2 Tbs olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, until browned.   Set aside.

Heat a large pot or dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat with the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil.  Add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute before adding the roasted cauliflower.

Add the water, milk and sugar and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes (or risk burning yourself while pureeing).  Puree with immersion blender or in batches in a food processor until smooth.  Return soup to dutch oven, reheat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with mushrooms, truffle oil, and a dollop of sour cream (or greek yogurt/creme fraiche) if desired.

 

 

Happy 2015!

2014 has been good to me:  I finished my third year of residency, started a research fellowship, and reclaimed by social life!  I picked up a new and exciting hobby (photography).  My little brother got engaged (and now I’m being FORCED to go to Paris for the wedding!) I made some new friends and rekindled relationships with old ones.  I cooked and baked A LOT of amazing food (and photographed the sh-t out of it!).

But now it is time to look forward to, hopefully, an even better 2015.

2015 will be the year I finally travel to Hawaii and return to Paris.  2015 will be the year I try to reduce my own food waste while also trying to cook more at home and eat out less (already failing this one).  2015 will be the year I finally gain some patience (maybe? I have a feeling this one will be a forever goal).  2015 will be the year I master Lightroom and improve my photography.  I could go on and on because there is always room for improvement, as doctors, daughters, sisters, bloggers, photographers, researchers, friends and people.  Happy and healthy new year to all of my readers!  Scroll below for a few of my favorite creations and photographs from last year.

 

8 Crazy Bites: A Kitchen Kibitz Hannukah Event

On any given night, Jeff Gabel can be found drinking craft cocktails at Trade, dining at Boston’s hottest new restaurants, or at home creating Asian/Jewish fusion dishes such as tom yum matzo ball soup or bagels with gochujang cream cheese and lox.  He may look young, but his name is rapidly rising in the culinary world of Boston, and beyond.  As evidence, he was recently named one of Zagats 30 under 30 which honors “gastronomic game changers” who are “redefining the way we eat, drink and interact with food and beverages across the U.S. – all before their 30th birthdays”.

This award comes from the success of his recent pop-up series called Kitchen Kibitz.  A former NYC resident with experience in the Jewish nonprofit sector, Jeff noticed a dearth of Jewish cuisine in the city of Boston and decided to do something about it…thus Kitchen Kibitz was born!  Kitchen Kibitz aims to put modern and new twists on classic Jewish food in different kitchens/restaurants all over Boston to help reconnect Jewish and non-Jewish locals to Jewish cuisine and traditions.  So far he has hosted several events such as ThanksGivukkah with Zagat 30 under 30 alum, Josh Lewin of Whisk, Southern Schmear with Hungry Mother’s Barry Maiden, and Land of Milk and Honey with Sofra’s Geoff Lukas.

This past Sunday was his 2nd Hannukah event where he teamed up with Stephanie Cmar (former Top Chef contestant, Zagat 30 under 30 2013, and owner of Stacked donuts pop-up) and Chef Steve “Nookie” Postal, of Commonwealth (formerly chef for the Boston Red Sox) who has his own plans to open up a Jewish inspired restaurant, Steinbones.

I had the privilege of being “hired” as the event photographer (will work for food!) and got to work “behind the scenes” as Chef Nookie and Stephanie Cmar prepared multiple variations of latkes and donuts.

The first latke was a purple carrot latke with carrot gel and persimmon.  The sweetness of the persimmon worked perfectly against the salty, fried latke, almost like a play on apple sauce.  And the colors were beautiful!

The second latke was sweet potato with smoked salmon and dill.  Again, this latke played on the sweet and savory combination, this time featuring the sweet flavor in the latke.  The smoked salmon was delicious with the perfect amount of smokey flavor.

Next came artichoke latkes with apple butter followed by my favorite latke of the night: potato latke with Nookie’s special Pastrami and whole grain mustard.  It’s not easy to find good pastrami in Boston, but this was perfection!  I can’t wait until Steinbones is open and I can eat this on a regular basis!

The last latke featured another specialty that will be a mainstay at Steinbones: brisket!  This was a smokey, perfectly tender brisket completed by  Dr. Brown’s black cherry bbq sauce and served atop a parsnip latke.

The meal was rounded out with ice cream sandwiches with hannukah gelt ice cream as well as Stephanie Cmar’s delicious donuts with Manischewitz jelly (yes Manischewitz can actually taste good!).

And of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without the specialty cocktail of the night dubbed “The Chosen One”.

Overall, it was a delicious event that redefined traditional Hannukah cuisine. Check out Kitchen Kibitz for upcoming events in the New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Chocolate Truffles: Cardamom Pistachio and Mexican Hot Chocolate

The holidays always put me in the mood to make chocolate truffles.  Not only are they festive, but they make great homemade gifts!  While they may seem intimidating to make, they actually require minimal ingredients and effort…as long as you are willing to get a little messy!

The beauty of truffles is that you can make endless flavor combinations with the option to get as creative as you want.  Think mango curry truffles, mojito, honey lavender, balsamic sea salt, raspberry, mint…any flavor that comes to mind!

I, personally, like to infuse the cream with different flavors (such as the cardamom and cinnamon sticks demonstrated below) and will occasionally add other flavors directly to the ganache mixture.  While cocoa is the traditional coating for truffles, I like to have fun with different flavors and textures such as chopped nuts, coconut, or colored sugar.  Enjoy experimenting and happy holidays!

Cardamom Pistachio Truffles (makes about 10 truffles)

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate (60-70%), chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/3 cup roasted pistachios, finely chopped

Place 1/2 cup chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a small heatproof bowl.

Heat heavy cream and cardamom pods over medium-low heat until it comes to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes to infuse the cardamom flavor.  Strain the milk over the chopped chocolate.  Let stand for a minute and then whisk until combined into a smooth chocolate ganache.

Cover ganache with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours until firm enough hold its shape.  Spoon (I like to use a small mellon baller for this) out about 1 Tbs of ganache and roll into a sphere (they don’t have to be perfect, I usually aim for a “rustic” look).  Let chocolate balls chill in the refrigerator for another hour.

Now comes the messy part!  Using a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, melt the additional 1/3 cup of chocolate.  Roll chocolate balls in the melted chocolate either using your hands (messy option) or using 2 forks (slightly less messy) and then immediately coat in chopped pistachios.  Let truffles chill for an hour to set.

Remove from refrigerator at least an hour before serving to bring to room temperature.  Enjoy!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Truffles (makes about 10 truffles)

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate (60-70%), chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
ground cinnamon, optional
1/4 cup cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder

Place 1/2 cup chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a small heatproof bowl.

Heat heavy cream and cinnamon sticks over medium-low heat until it comes to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 5 minutes to infuse the cinnamon flavor.  Strain the milk over the chopped chocolate.  Add cayenne pepper and let stand for a minute and then whisk until combined into a smooth chocolate ganache.  At this point, you can add some extra ground cinnamon if you wish after tasting for a stronger cinnamon flavor.

Cover ganache with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours until firm enough hold its shape.  Spoon out about 1 Tbs of ganache and roll into a sphere.  Let chocolate balls chill in the refrigerator for another hour.

Using a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, melt the additional 1/3 cup of chocolate.  Roll chocolate balls in the melted chocolate either using your hands or using 2 forks and then immediately coat in cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder.  Let truffles chill for an hour to set.

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Cranberry Ice Cream

I know all 65 of my readers have been anxiously awaiting this post after reading my Thanksgiving special.  Sorry for the delay!  Unfortunately, this post may be a little untimely as last night was probably the last night to safely eat your Thanksgiving leftovers (you can maybe take a risk and stretch it into today…).  Luckily, cranberry sauce is super easy to make (or you can always bookmark this site and save it for next year).

I follow several other cooking blogs and a few of them featured cranberry ice cream recently.  I had never had cranberry ice cream until now, but decided that it was a genius idea for using leftover cranberry sauce.  I was all about repurposing this weekend because what better way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers then to make MORE food!!!  (see pictures below of turkey soup and fried mashed potatoes).  Luckily, I have amazing friends who I coerced to come over and eat repurposed leftovers with me :)

The cranberry ice cream turned out to be delicious!  Obviously I started with a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream base and then just added my leftovers!  The milk and cream really help to mellow out some of the tartness of the cranberries to make this a sweet and festive ice cream.  You can use any cranberry sauce recipe but I have provided my orange cranberry sauce recipe below.  This would pair well with apple or pear pie, white chocolate bread pudding or just on its own, enjoy!

Cranberry Ice Cream

1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
2 cups milk
1 Tbs and 1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 cup cranberry sauce (see recipe below)

In a large bowl, whisk together cream cheese and salt, set aside.

In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside.

In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in milk-cornstarch slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Whisk milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Next, mix in cranberry sauce.  Mixture may have some lumps from the cranberries. Pour mixture into a plastic bag; seal, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled, about 30 min.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place into a storage container and freeze at least 1 hour before eating.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

1 12 o bag of fresh cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
~~~~~
Bring all ingredients to a boil over medium heat in a medium sized pot.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have broken down.  You may want to add a little water to thin the mixture out.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator before serving (or using for ice cream).